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Old 14th May 2021, 08:59 PM   #1
Jim McDougall
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Default Sword of Myles Standish

In much of the lore of American history, the tales of the Puritans and Pilgrims and the establishment of Plymouth Colony in 1920 , Myles Standish is heralded as the military advisor and leader of the Pilgrims.

Naturally writers, including Longfellow, historians and others in the 19th century brought romanticized dimension to the known history of the Pilgrims and Standish. Along with the historic materials included in the artifacts added to the traditions and icons of the Pilgrims, was the sword, claimed to have belonged to Standish.

According to material written in 1881, 1921, the sword had been given to Standish when he was serving in Holland during the '80 Years War' between Holland and Spain (1585-1604). It is unclear whether he was with British military or serving as a mercenary, however he would have been quite young (born 1584-d. 1656)

Apparently he defended an old armorer from looting soldiers, and the old man gave him a sword of some quality. Standish was quite moved and wore the sword the rest of his life, naming it 'Gideon'.

In the rather flowery writing of Victorian times, and into the early 20th c.
this sword was noted as ' a fine old sword made hundreds of years before Standish was born in the far east, and had symbols of sun, moon and stars on one side, and words in an old, old language on the other.

There is a photo c. 1870s of the sword standing against a chair, along with a gun barrel (alleged as from the gun that killed King Philip, the Indian chief).
Beyond that, all I can find is drawings of the sword, and all of these items are listed as holdings of various museums, libraries.

My question is....where is the actual sword?

Ultimately, what I can see of the sword is that it is an 18th c. hanger, the blade is not Damascus (as heralded in most references); it is not Persian, nor is it from the Crusades. The cosmological symbols typify 18th century European blade motif, and unsure of what old writing is on the other side.
In the 1921 attempt at translation it is suggested it is Kufic, but this would be surprising on an 18th century British hanger.

Anybody out there have any idea where this actual sword might be, or if any actual photos of it exist?
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Old 15th May 2021, 12:14 AM   #2
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Smile Who Knows For Sure??

This sword is purported to be in the collection of the Pilgrim Hall Museum in downtown Plymouth. I'm sure if it was in a family's posession it would likely have had new furniture added as the times changed through the centuries.

This brings to mind The Elder Brewster Chair debacle of many years ago.

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Old 15th May 2021, 03:29 AM   #3
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This sword is purported to be in the collection of the Pilgrim Hall Museum in downtown Plymouth. I'm sure if it was in a family's posession it would likely have had new furniture added as the times changed through the centuries.

This brings to mind The Elder Brewster Chair debacle of many years ago.
Thanks Rick!

I found a note saying something about Samuel Wagstaff Jr. (1921-1987) selling to J.Paul Getty Museum in 1984,..,..but it was along with the old 1870s photo, so I thought it referred to the photo but not the sword.

I dont know the deal on the Brewster chair.
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Old 15th May 2021, 12:24 PM   #4
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Guys, i wonder if i get it right ...
... if the sword shown here and elsewhere in web sources, is a XVIII century sabre, this has no chance to be Miles Standish's sword, right ?
And if adding to that, all seen are legends mentioning 'by detail' this specific example, like Longfellow’s fictional poem, "the sword with i fought with in Flanders" and all that, we have that, the whole 'evidence' found out there is about this much later sword. Curiously the gun barrel leaning on the chair next to it, that one yes, appears to be contemporaneous of Standish activity, but that is another deal.
May one therefore conclude that the real Standish sword, or any written trace of it, are found ... nowhere ?


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Old 15th May 2021, 12:47 PM   #5
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There is a rapier in the Pilgrim Hall Museum, which is attributed to Myles Standish:

https://www.pilgrimhall.org/ce_arms_armor.htm

As from the description of an exhibition there (https://www.pilgrimhall.org/pdf/Arms...f_Pilgrims.pdf),
one could speculate, this, less "fantastical" weapon was the "true" sword of M.S.

Perhaps it would be interesting to contact them directly about this matter/if the sword with inlays still is in their collection. They say, items presented on website are a selection.

.................................................. .......................................

On the same site there is found the inventory of M.S.

https://www.pilgrimhall.org/pdf/Myle..._Inventory.pdf

and it says "It one sword one Cutles 3 belts", so there must have been a sword and a cutlass indeed.
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Old 15th May 2021, 05:22 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by fernando View Post
Guys, i wonder if i get it right ...
... if the sword shown here and elsewhere in web sources, is a XVIII century sabre, this has no chance to be Miles Standish's sword, right ?
And if adding to that, all seen are legends mentioning 'by detail' this specific example, like Longfellow’s fictional poem, "the sword with i fought with in Flanders" and all that, we have that, the whole 'evidence' found out there is about this much later sword. Curiously the gun barrel leaning on the chair next to it, that one yes, appears to be contemporaneous of Standish activity, but that is another deal.
May one therefore conclude that the real Standish sword, or any written trace of it, are found ... nowhere ?


.

Thank you for this picture, all I could find were the drawings of the sword.
Where was this found?

If only now we could find the actual sword.

The photo of it with the gun barrel against the chair was apparently taken in 1870s, and what it appears to be is a CdV (vintage photo) by Robbins & Co.
It is suggested that this was the Myles Standish sword, alongside the gun barrel which 'killed King Philip' .
King Philip was actually Metacom (1638-1676) and the war in which he was killed was 1675-1676, so Standish of course could have had nothing to do with this event as he had passed in 1656.

In a news item from New York Times June 15,1881 it describes this sword as having been acquired by Standish when fighting 'against the Turk' in now Austria, before going to Flanders. It is claimed that James Rosendale of Palestine was traveling with a group of Arabs in America. He prounounced the inscriptions as ancient and in cufic as well as other in medieval Arabic.
This individual claimed the sword is 'one of the oldest in existence' and dates back 300 to 400 years BEFORE Christ !

Another apocryphal story says Standish got the sword from an old armorer in Flanders, saying the sword had been made in the Far East hundreds of years before Standish was born....on one side the sun, moon and stars and on the other words written in an old language. Here, it is claimed that Standish named the sword 'Gideon'.

In 1921 (Recorder #2, Virginia Chronicle, 14 Jan.1921) it say that the sword has a Damascus blade etc. (some claim it was made in Persia) and he acquired it from an ancestor who got it during the Crusades.
It bears curious inscriptions which 'waited until 1881 to be translated' by Professor James Rosenthal of Jerusalem, who noted these were of different dates, some in Cufic , some in Arabic.

Here I will note that these 'records' are wrought with errors, and that it appears to me that this sword is indeed as I suggest originally, of the 18th c. and clearly a Solingen style blade of that period. The cosmological motif is typical on many 18th century blades carrying 'magical' imbuements, but what puzzles me are the suggestions of Arabic writing on the blade.

European blades were seldom, if ever, inscribed in Arabic, and the only exceptions I know of are several broadswords actually OF the Crusades, inscribed sparsely when taken into the armory at Alexandria; and some others from colonial regions in 19th c.

The description of Cufic as separate from Arabic as far as language, is of course patently incorrect. While Cufic is indeed one of the oldest 'pens' of Arabic language, it and Naskh are the most popularly used in writing the language, with distinct differences as far as Persian use. I will note that the circular cartouche at the forte appears to be a simulation of an Islamic 'bedouh', which is a talismanic 'magic square' as can be seen on the blade in the photo Fernando furnished.

I would suggest here that this clearly 18th century sword was somehow adopted into the sensationalism of local historical groups capitalizing on Pilgrim heritage and as a historic relic.

As Gustav has noted, the rapier in the Pilgrim Hall museum is indeed an England 'cavalier' style (as termed regarding the hilt form) and of the correct period for Standish. Perhaps the mysterious sword we are investigating was realized as not as purported and unceremoniously disappeared?

This is the question.....where did it go? These are the only recorded references to it I could find.

Thanks very much for the input guys! Hopefully more will turn up.
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Old 15th May 2021, 06:01 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall View Post
Thank you for this picture, all I could find were the drawings of the sword.
Where was this found?...
https://apachewarface.tumblr.com/pos...ndish-main/amp
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Old 15th May 2021, 06:09 PM   #8
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... so there must have been a sword and a cutlass indeed...
So there was a cutlass; but certainly not so 'young' as the one that has been popularized.
Great data you found, anyhow, Gustav .
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Old 16th May 2021, 02:43 PM   #9
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Semantics often becomes the nemesis of the historian and researcher in following the accounts and records of the times in studying arms. This is often the case where transliterations take place from other languages, but here it is notable that the term 'cutlass' was often quite broadly used.

It does seem certain that the term as used in the estate records of Standish did refer to some type of saber, it is hard to imagine what that particular sword looked like. Perhaps because the 18th century sword with the cosmologic markings etc was a saber/hanger it may well have been presented at some point years later as in accord with that documentation, despite the obvious disparity in age.

In those times, a cutlass was primarily a common, relatively pedestrian weapon, however, the rapier was of course the weapon of a gentleman, and may be how the rapier now in the museum survived as having been Standish's .
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Old 16th May 2021, 08:05 PM   #10
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No semantic issues here, i guess. The inventory lists one sword (and) one cutlass (and) three belts. Given that the 'sword' is the rapier, the cutlass is another edged weapon ... whatever the inventory officer called it. Meaning that, such second sword, once it existed, could not be the fancy (in)famous 'crusader' hanger.
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Old 16th May 2021, 09:06 PM   #11
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While I am no linguist, possibly I should explain my use of the word 'semantics' and what I meant by my observation, in this case as applied to the word 'cutlass' (sic) in the 1656 document. I wanted to elaborate further, as I should have done earlier, for clarification to those reading here.

Semantics refers to the meaning of a word or a phrase, in some cases the interpretation of same. The term 'coutelas' seems to derive from a French word of 16th c. for machete type blade (Fr. couteau=knife). This in turn comes from It. 16th c. cortelazo, coltellaccio= knife or broad bladed saber.

By the 17th-18th c. the French 'couteau' had become termed 'cuttoe' in English and often used for the familiar hunting hangers.

It is interesting to note the utilitarian nature of these weapons which are noted as having served as both tool and weapon much in the manner of the machete. Many references note 'cutlasses' as having machete like blades though that term is of course much later.

The references to Myles Standish having a sword which had 'come from the crusades' did not have origin in the documents of his period nor his estate, but from 19th century, and later 20th century writing.

That was actually the point of looking into this inventory.....the rapier was clearly not of the crusades, but early 17th century English.
The 'cutlass' , the second sword clearly itemized, of course cannot have been from the crusades, made in Persia, earlier than the time of Christ, and above all, would not have been the 18th century hanger of the creative 19th century writings.

The only 'cutlass' used in the times of the crusades was the falchion, and these are of enormous rarity, and would be unlikely to meet the cutlass category even in the remote chance one existed in the colonies. Thus, as suggested, this mysterious second sword could not be the 'crusaders sword' heralded in the much later writings.

So again, we ask, what became of it? that is, the cutlass described in the 1656 inventory.
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Old 16th May 2021, 09:19 PM   #12
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So Jim, as you confirm, semantics are not the issue. And you are putting in many words what i have just said in a short clumsy way .
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Old 16th May 2021, 11:10 PM   #13
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So Jim, as you confirm, semantics are not the issue. And you are putting in many words what i have just said in a short clumsy way .

Not at all, what I meant was that semantically the author of the 1656 inventory was describing the sword/item in question as a cutlass, his choice of term, but he might have been describing any number of weapons of the time used in a cutting or chopping manner.
Unfortunately there is no illustration for us to know exactly what he meant, but semantically presume it is our perception of a 'cutlass'.

Words can be confounding and often confusing, which is why I, as you often note, use more words to try to qualify what I am saying.
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